Reading Borough Council go into battle with ‘aggressive tax avoiders
Council leader Jo Lovelock laid down a motion at a meeting on Tuesday saying “aggressive corporate tax avoidance schemes are unfair, unjust and morally wrong”
Big name brands like Vodafone, Starbucks, Apple and Facebook were bandied around the council chamber as companies the council did not want to do business with.
Leader of the council, Councillor Jo Lovelock laid down a motion at the meeting on Tuesday saying “aggressive corporate tax avoidance schemes are unfair, unjust and morally wrong”.
She called on the council to back her view that Reading Borough Council should do everything reasonable to fight aggressive tax avoidance and, where possible, prevent organisations that engage in aggressive tax avoidance from securing contracts with the council.
She said the authority should lobby government to legislate to close tax loopholes, prevent the use of tax havens, increase the transparency of corporate accounts and work with local tax justice campaigners to promote the cause.
Cllr Lovelock said tax avoidance amounted to a loss to the treasury of about £90 billion with a further £69 billion lost in tax evasion.
She contrasted that figure with the £81 billion in Government spending cuts.
She said tax avoidance was not illegal but “against the spirit of legislation”.
There were two attempts to amend Cllr Lovelock’s proposals at the full council meeting.
The first came from the Green Party which wanted to add a proposal to lobby the Government to produce a general anti-tax avoidance principle which would provide a working definition of tax avoidance – and to report back to the policy committee by next summer on the Public Contracts Regulations expected early next year to see how the council could achieve the aims of Cllr Lovelock’s motion.
She embraced that amendment but reject another – this time from the Conservatives – which suggested congratulating the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer on “their excellent conference speeches which highlighted the extraordinary work done by both of them in tackling the issue of tax avoidance by large multinational corporations”.
The Conservative amendment was lost after a vote.
Cllr David Stevens, who proposed the Tory amendment, said tax avoidance was a global problem and it led to unfair competition where UK companies were not playing on a level playing field.
But he warned Cllr Lovelock the council’s first duty was to the council taxpayers of Reading.
He said; “Like it or dislike it, if it’s legal and it’s a good deal for the ratepayers and taxpayers of Reading, one should be doing it.”
The council backed Cllr Lovelock’s call to go into battle with the aggressive corporate tax avoiders.